Girls with Guitars #2

29-05-10

Thank you so much to The Underground team for successfully running an event without myself there! Big shout out to Gregory (ROCKSCHOOL) for giving the girls a great sound. An all girl night – thanks to all the girls and guys who showed up to witness that girls really CAN and DO play great music 🙂 Thanks also to BC magazine (the poster looked so great in the magazine), Angus (his artwork and photography just keeps getting better & better) and HKGFM.net and Asahi!
love Chris B x
Pssst… read the girls mish mash interview HERE!

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Heather

Setlist:

1. Faded

2. Clown Face

3. One Way Ticket

4. Falling

5. Umbrella (Rihanna cover)

6. We’re Not Finished

The girl with the biggest workload that night (having had some major multi-tasking to do, with the absence of Chris B that night) was also the opening act to the show. Now, it must be confessed that the U-Team was a bit worried about attendance earlier that night, what with the rain and Music Matters in LKF; but these worries were significantly alleviated thanks to the massive posse that Heather summoned over.

With her audience ready and waiting, she gave us a little insight to her set – it was arranged to go from the most depressing, to the happiest song. This spectrum of emotions was quite accurate in describing the progression of the songs – they were mostly very simply composed, drilling down to the bedrock of song-writing with just chords and lyrics. Now, despite the lack of accompaniment, she did not miss them. Her lyrics were quite engaging, taking on a pleasant conversational tone. Her main strength is her voice, which while being very sweet, never crossed the line to being too saccharine – it’s an earnest croon that she sings with, and it’s really nice to listen to. Her comfort on stage is also appreciable – you can see that she likes being there – and combine that with her ability to keep the crowd’s attention (bit of a given considering its composition, but still) and you have a very fun performance.

Another thing about her set was that despite her description, the moods of the songs were subtle. Clown Face sounded sweet on the surface, but had a detectable undertone of bitterness resolved, and a toe-tapping rhythm. One Way Ticket was a four year-old song, with a rousing chord pattern, in which she made some clever vocal and guitar modulation choices, allowing her voice to really flower. Her cover of Umbrella was very interesting to hear in her more laidback style – took a little getting used to, but it was really fun. Plus, it didn’t hurt to have the audience being able to sing along. We’re Not Finished was a new song, with lyrics being spontaneously generated at points. Overall, she sounded full and rounded throughout, and the stage never seemed vacant, and that’s a real credit to her.
— Shashwati

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9 Maps

Setlist:

1. Blame

2. White and Gold

3. The Harder Times

4. 4 Walls

5. Gatekeeper

6. Traces in Hand

Both girls came on stage, with borrowed stuff from Heather and Dark Secret, as they soon informed us. They had a genial demeanour, and their set had a wonderful disjointedness to it – the kind that threatens to fall apart, but doesn’t, while simultaneously giving a sense of palpable excitement. Their songs rest on their sometimes intricate, well-executed vocal harmonies, which do wonders for the songs’ feel and texture. They, again, have voice qualities different enough to sing the sea-against-the-sky-horizon harmonies. Their songs were simple, with melodies that were moving in their simplicity, and clever lyrical arrangements. The instrumentation was used largely as ornamentation for the songs, and was quite effective mood-wise.

Blame began with a simple arpeggiated intro, with a sorrowful feel and undulating vocal melody. White and Gold saw a lot of use of delay, which made the few notes strummed feel like many more, and providing some trepidation; a feeling as if something would happen at any moment. 4 Walls saw Sherin run off to get what I think was a lyric sheet, and we were told that the song was about a fanciful situation in jail, soon followed by a powerful collision of verse and instrument in the chorus. Gatekeeper was a really, really beautiful song that had possibly their best harmonies in it. The chorus had catchy lyrics, while sounding completely genuine; the overall effect would have had anyone holding their breath during the song. Just before Traces in Hand, we saw some more of that disjointedness in the form of a minor argument between the girls, which carried into the song as well, with the barrage of notes on bass and guitar creating instant atmosphere. Funnily enough, after all that harmonic loveliness, they finished off their set with a snappy “that’s it!”.
Shashwati

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Reign Lee

Setlist:

1. Built to Last

2. Angels in the Dirt

3. Sleeper Cars

4. I Bleed

5. Don’t Close Your Eyes

6. Helena

There were confessions of girl-crushes and serious fandom expressed to me about Reign before her set. Dressed with flair as usual, there were also a number of comments about how enviable her coat with long tails was. She was accompanied in person by Thelma with percussion on a box, and some pre-recorded backing tracks. This was a clever move, as it really filled out the tiny gap left by her rich, deep voice and angsty guitarwork. Her lyrics are meaty and flowing, really making you think. There’s an attitude to her songs, but not in an obnoxious way – rather, it makes the songs edgy. And this isn’t the manufactured, customary edge that comes with heavily distorted and overdriven guitars; it’s derived from a genuine depth, and even darkness, to the songs overall. To add to all her musical credentials, she even killed a roach just before starting her set (and chided Greg)!

More than the other performers that night, she sang to complement her guitarwork – this was highlighted in Angels in the Dirt where her pithy lyrics tussled with the guitars to fill listening ears. It was also of note that she always sings in her full voice, especially in places that many female singers would have opted for a falsetto – just my opinion, but this approach makes the song more substantial. I Bleed was a new addition to her repertoire; a song that rests on the building-up process, it was added to significantly by the recorded piano and drumrolls. The unyielding yet somehow floating Don’t Close Your Eyes used a very classic chord pattern, made unique by their use in the song. Helena was the ruminating closer, with a sparse yet opulent soundscape, where the box-percussion flourished, ending her set on a pensive, somewhat atonal note.
Shashwati

 

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Dark Secret (Zuhai)

Setlist:

1. Intro

2. Imaginary

3. Dancer in the Dark

4. Wild Rose Growing Inside Me

5. Angel of Grief

6. My Last Breath

7. Let the Flames Begin

That night’s guests from China were the last to perform – all dressed in black outfits that matched, their sound was a punchy one, mainly provided for by the guitar. Their set was rather different from the previous acts’, it being electric (for one), and sounding significantly more like bands from the Noughties. They mostly had a deep, somewhat menacing feel to them, with high-pitched vocals, and simple, short, yet emotive, runs on the keys. The singer overused the high part of her vocal range a bit, though – I would’ve liked to hear the variety added to the songs by using some of her lower range as well. She also took some brave chances with some very high notes indeed; some of which worked, but others would’ve been more suited to a deeper voice. Other than this small gripe, I had no more to complain about in their set, which was quite enjoyable; and I’m certain the (softly) headbanging, toe-tapping crowd would agree.

The guitar was heavy and gritty throughout, perhaps nowhere more so than in Imaginary, with its grinding quality and generously layered vocals. Dancer in the Dark showed a more 80s side to them, especially with the hair-metal solo. Angel of Grief was a mix of hard rock and metal that could’ve been composed by the lostprophets, and featured some fairly difficult vocal bits, carried off well by the singer. Their stage presence was a bit detached though (with the possible exception of the guitarist), and if they just fixed this, their songs’ delivery would improve tenfold. Having said that, they were in a different city, playing to an unfamiliar crowd, so they deserve the benefit of the doubt. Their closer was possibly their best song, with some impressive technical displays on all the instruments, again, with more of an 80s vibe. As its last strains died down, the booming applause that greeted them was confirmation that they had not failed to impress, and most importantly, entertain.

And so, the girls drifted off into the crowd, and I’m certain they realised that despite the unfavourable weather, they had definitely won the night.
Shashwati

photos © Copyright 2010 by ANGUS LEUNG

poster by ANGUS LEUNG

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